Stabilizer Muscles - What Are the Stabilizer Muscles During Exercise?

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Getty Images/Tatiana Kolesnikova

We talk a lot about having good form when you exercise and especially lift weights and a big part of good form involves being able to stabilize your body. For example, even a simple biceps curl requires your shoulders to stay stabilized as you curl the weight towards the shoulders.

Stand on one leg and now you've got the core and the lower body involved.

What makes that possible are your stabilizer muscles, the muscles that work in a more isometric way while the prime mover, such as the biceps in a biceps curl, does its thing.


The name describes exactly what these muscles do. They act to stabilize one joint so the desired movement can be performed in another joint. These muscles usually aren't directly involved in a movement, but work to keep you steady so that your primary muscles can do their job.

Another example might be chest press on an exercise ball, the primary muscles working include the chest and triceps, but the abs, back, and legs work isometrically to stabilize your body.

That means just doing one exercise requires multiple muscles to fire at the same time. Strengthening those muscles will not only help your form, it also increases your ability to balance and your coordination. The good news is, it's very easy to train your stabilizer muscles during your regular workouts.

How to Increase Your Stability

If you're a beginning exerciser, balance and stability may be a challenge, which is a great reason to focus on these areas of fitness before moving on to more challenging workouts.

There's a natural progression of stability, depending on where you're starting:

  1. Do the exercises seated - While you're seated, you have support for your lower body, so you don't have to work as hard to stabilize.
  2. Do the exercises while standing - As soon as you stand, you involve the entire body in the exercise because you've taken away any support. Now your body has to support itself while you do the exercise.
  1. Stand in a wide stance - When you stand in a wide stance, you increase your base of support, making you feel more balanced and stable.
  2. Stand in a narrow stance - Bring your feet  closer and you'll feel less stable, thus triggering your stabilizer muscles to kick in.
  3. Stagger your feet - The next progression is to stand in a staggered position, with one foot just a bit behind the other. This immediately challenges your balance as that stable base is no longer there.
  4. Split Stance - Now try standing in a split stance where one foot is in front of the other, feet are about 3 or so feet apart. This is the same stance you use during a lunge and, again, much more challenging to your balance than a wide stance or staggered stance.
  5. Tandem Stance - This is like standing on a balance beam, with one foot in front of the other.  Try doing an exercise in this position and you'll really challenge your balance.
  6. Stand on One Leg - The final progression is to stand on one leg while exercising.  You'll notice that every muscle in the body will contract to help keep your balance.

Balance and Stability Exercises

If you want to increase balance and stability? The only way is to work on it on a regular basis.  Below are just a few exercises that will do just that:

Incorporating those exercises into your usual routine is a great way to work on your balance while also working on strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Now, what about workouts?  The following workouts include a variety of balance and stability gear that will help you work on balance, stability, and core strength....all things that will strengthen your stabilizer muscles as well as increase ​your coordination.

Balance and Stability Workouts

Even just incorporating an exercise ball into your routine - sitting on it, using it as a weight bench, or doing core work, is a great way to work on those stabilizer muscles without having to think about it.

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